I read a lot of books across many different genres, usually around 3-5 books per week in ebook, audio, and hardback editions.
These are the memorable ones that made a lasting impact on me this year. I hope some of them make it to your holiday reading pile!
4000 Weeks: Time Management for Mortals — Oliver Burkeman. I generally live by the principle of ‘memento mori,’ remember you will die. This book brings it into perspective and helps us to embrace JOMO, the joy of missing out.
The Genesis Machine: Our Quest to Rewrite Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology – Amy Webb and Andrew Hessel. “The next frontier in technology is inside our own bodies.” I knew nothing about this area so every chapter was full of ‘wow’ moments. Fascinating, kind of scary, and also hopeful.
Dear Writer, Are You Intuitive? — Becca Syme and Susan Bischoff. If you feel like the prescriptive tips for writers are too linear or too rules-based, perhaps you are an intuitive writer. I loved this book and it gave me permission to lean into how things ‘feel’ as I write.
Imaginable: How to See the Future Coming and Feel Ready for Anything, Even Things That Seem Impossible Today — Jane McGonigal. This is a must-read book for anyone who feels that change is moving faster than ever. Helps you reframe and reset what might be possible and how you can thrive in such a future.
Quit: The Power of Knowing When to Walk Away — Annie Duke. Brilliant book. You will read it and it will give you permission to let go of that thing you know you should let go of, but you’ve been clinging to in the hope it might work out, or you just can’t get over the sunk cost.
Menopausing: The Positive Roadmap to Your Second Spring — Davina McCall. If you or someone you love are going through perimenopause, or if you are even in the right age bracket and you’re wondering what the hell is going on, why you’re not sleeping, why things are not as they were — this will help. Seriously.
Rule of the Robots: How Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Everything — Martin Ford. This book will help you be ready for the future, rather than shying away from it. “AI is here to stay and the real question is not how to stop it, but how to control its negative potential and harness its power for good as AI transforms our economy, our politics, and our lives.”
Scary Smart: The Future of Artificial Intelligence and How You Can Save Our World — Mo Gawdat. “Scary Smart explains how to fix the current trajectory now, to make sure that the AI of the future can preserve our species. This book offers a blueprint, pointing the way to what we can do to safeguard ourselves, those we love and the planet itself.” The first half of this book is scary, but the second half is hopeful. I left it feeling ready to create more and join the AI for Good movement.
Machines Behaving Badly: The Morality of AI — Toby Walsh. Thought-provoking without being alarmist. “A thought-provoking look at the increasing human reliance on robotics and the decisions that need to be made now to ensure the future of AI is as a force for good, not evil.”
Richer, Wiser, Happier: How the World’s Greatest Investors Win in Markets and Life — William Green. I’m pretty happy with my investment strategy, but it’s always good to learn more about wealth (if money is something you’re interested in!). More recommended money books here.
At First Light — Barbara Nickless. “Ritual murder. Archaic clues. A visionary killer.” This is the first in a new crime thriller series that hooked me with the main characters. Dr Evan Wilding, a brilliant forensic semiotician; his Ph.D. student Diane who throws axes for fun, and Chicago detective Addie Bisset. I love love loved the Viking research and runes and cool details, and the characters were compelling. I pre-ordered the second book immediately.
The Lighthouse Witches — C.J. Cooke. I sample a lot of fiction and this caught me within a few pages. A cross-genre novel of witches, the love of family, with an edge of the supernatural.
The Gemini Effect — Chuck Grossart. “A single raindrop opens a Pandora’s box when the spawn of perverse genetic research performed during World War II is unleashed on an unsuspecting modern world. By dawn, only a dead city remains, eerily quiet and still, except for mutant beasts that hide from the light, multiply, and await the shadows of night to continue their relentless advance.” Tech-horror fun.
All the Murmuring Bones — AG Slatter. “Long ago Miren O’Malley’s family prospered due to a deal struck with the mer: safety for their ships in return for a child of each generation.” I love merfolk fiction, and this is excellent.
Sundial — Catriona Ward. “Rob is afraid of her daughter. Callie collects tiny bones and whispers to imaginary friends, and Rob is afraid of what she might to do Annie, her younger sister. She sees a darkness in Callie that reminds her of the family she left behind, and a life she has tried to forget.” Super dark.
The entire Slough House series — Mick Herron. I watched season 1 on Apple TV, and then binged the entire book series even though I don’t even usually read spy books. The characters in this series will keep you coming back for more, and the books are better than the TV show, even though that is also brilliant!
The Change – Kristen Miller. “In the Long Island oceanfront community of Mattauk, three different women discover that midlife changes bring a whole new type of empowerment …” I have recommended this to so many people this the year. I LOVE it!
When Women Were Dragons — Kelly Barnhill. “In a world where girls and women are taught to be quiet, the dragons inside them are about to be set free …” Wonderful. I await my dragoning …
The Six Deaths of the Saint — Alix E. Harrow. The Saint of War spares the life of a servant girl so she can fulfill her destiny as the kingdom’s greatest warrior. This is a short story, so it’s a quick read but it’s a memorable one. I also loved Harrow’s The Once and Future Witches, one of my best reads from last year.
The Paper Palace — Miranda Cowley Heller. “A story that unfolds over twenty-four hours and fifty years, as Elle’s shocking betrayal leads her to a life-changing decision.” I love deep sense of place and after I read the opening chapter, I couldn’t let this go.
The Thursday Murder Club series — Richard Osman. I resisted these books for too long, as I don’t usually read cozy mystery, but the characters in this series are addictive.
Queen of Teeth — Hailey Piper. “Within forty-eight hours, Yaya Betancourt will go from discovering teeth between her thighs to being hunted by one of the most powerful corporations in America.” Weird cosmic horror at its best. A well-deserved winner of a Bram Stoker Award.
Never — Ken Follett. “A stolen US army drone. A shrinking oasis in the Sahara Desert. A secret stash of deadly chemicals.” An utterly compelling read because of how real it could be. Its horror lies in how easy it is to start a world war and for that reason, it is a must read in the hope we can avoid it.
I’d love to know what books remain memorable for you this year. Please leave a comment and give me some recommendations!
Happy reading holidays!
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Author: Joanna Penn